This is a debate that we a couple of years ago for revision. We won’t be doing it again this year but why not listen to it and see if there is anything in it for you? Here are some of the obligatory selfies taken of our narcissistic postmodern selves! The debate in full is also embedded so listen back to it and find some golden nuggets, buzz phrases, descriptions, explanations that you might be able to use.
Apologies for the dreadful framing! It’s all Elliot’s fault!
Have you considered how postmodern selfies are? Our artificial image, simulation becomes the focus of a moment – we want people to focus on us and our image. The rest almost becomes irrelevant. We are also so self-absorbed – just recreating ourselves somewhere else – same face, different place. A pastiche of our own lives constantly uploaded.
Your Easter Postmodern essay is in classroom. You will have the rest of the lessons to plan, prepared and research the case studies you want to use in it. All the resources are in the classroom post.
It is essential that you try not to make the essay purely a list of examples. You should endeavour to open up the debate, criticise and analyse. Have some fun with the essay. You should also try and consider the past, present and future of POMO. Here are some ideas that you could develop as to how POMO might develop in the future. Use some of the buzz phrases you have heard in the example critiques and reviews. But do remember this is a MEDIA essay – not an historical or political one – bring these elements in but the Media text has to be the focus.
Counter arguments to Postmodernism
As soon as something is in the media it is mediated (selected, presented, changed, simplified…) by someone and by definition becomes a representation of reality. Baudrillard is therefore railing against the human impulse to tell stories and to explain the world.
Postmodernism mocks. It’s easier to mock than to try to be innovative. Postmodernism takes the easy option.
Are there any new stories or are we just telling the same story from our own unique point in history, just as generations before us have done and will continue to do. So Jameson bemoaning the lack of originality is a specious argument.
What’s wrong with big ideas that give us a sense of who we are, how we should behave, that give us a sense of identity & purpose? If all grand narratives are nonsense then everything is relative to the individual experience and we have no society / community, humanity becomes just a bunch of self absorbed relativists.
Some might argue that the world needs to change – as everything is being corrupted or has been corrupted, perhaps we all need a new direction? ‘Do not – focus on the shadows on the wall but on the light source itself’.
Could this mean civilisation, needs to redefine itself? Will the freedom of the internet eventually bring about our disintegration? Do we need Big Brother to come in and censor our lives? Are they spiralling out of control and is POMO media feeding that descent?
Thanks to Rosie for pointing us in the direction of this article. Charlie Brooker takes his usual side swipe at modern media and hits the nail right on the head. Focus on the last couple of paragraphs where it is clear their ‘creation’ is all part of consumer culture. Elements of ‘scopophilia’ are involved in wanting to watch and hate them and not wanting to watch and kind of liking them all at the same time. ‘Hyperreality’ is involved too in their caricaturing personas but the most interesting idea could fit with Lyotard’s ideas on the destruction of the ‘grand narrative’.
The current state of society is fractured, pluralist and perhaps lost its way with the destruction of those absolute truths. We need somewhere to channel our fears, our angst, our distaste, our pent up anxiety and loss of direction – and what better way than taking it all out on a bunch of wannabe celebrity Z listers, who are just dying to be noticed? They really are noble types.
This is a presentation focusing on ‘all may not be what it seems’. It was used in an assembly last year but it is a good reference point for making sure that in this postmodern age, images, messages, ideas and communication may be no more than ‘a shadow on the wall – look for light source itself’.
This refers to fraudulent photography, where photographs are manipulated through photoshop or manipulated by other means to change the information they convey. Fauxtography is often used to manipulated the viewer and promote a particular agenda.
Fauxtography is also occasionally used to refer to low-quality or humorous photographs taken by amateur photographers who have started photography businesses or blogs despite their limited experience and skill. In this sense, fauxtography is an Internet meme.
“Faux” is the French word for “fake.” Techopedia explains Fauxtography. The term fauxtography may have emerged in 2006 when freelance photographer Adnan Hajj provided an altered photograph of what was described as an Israeli raid in Beirut. Reuters printed the photo, and it quickly spread online. However, the billowing black smoke was later discovered to have been digitally added, along with other elements of the photo. Fauxtography is especially dangerous in photojournalism because audiences trust the news to provide accurate representations of worldwide events. When images are photoshopped or staged, this can drastically change how people feel about the event depicted.
And the latest from infowars – the website that says it exposes conspiracies, is a very sorry and deeply distressing development. Whilst, its main agenda is to highlight how the grand narratives, absolute truths are to be questioned and that hegemony is alive and kicking and needs to be challenged, it also causes an enormous amount of misinformation and anxiety. It has been accused of causing so much hurt to the families of the Sandy Hook massacre, saying it was set up by those in favour of harsher gun licensing laws in the USA. One father though is hitting back.
I GUESS ALL THAT THIS SAYS ABOUT POSTMODERN MEDIA IS THAT, with the proliferation of digital media, the idea that anyone and many do, feel the right to air their views, become keyboard warriors or citizen journalists, how are we ever going to be able to police what is out there and really KNOW WHAT THE TRUTH IS? Lyotard might argue that it is good that everyone know has the right to question, air their own mini narratives and to question the absolute truths/grand narratives but is it just making life full of false stories, unproven facts and FAKE NEWS. Postmodern Media is now, more than ever giving over to the POST TRUTH era. With the President of the USA now embroiled in various FAKE NEWS stories, the whole of society needs to be on high alert and always look beyond, beneath, behind and below the headlines.
Lyotard is a theorist who is a bit more positive about Postmodernism. In so far as rebellion, subversiveness and rejection of big ideas can be described as ‘positive’.
Lyotard was sceptical of anyone who layed claim to ‘the truth’. He felt rather than society was better made up of competing views of the world (discourses).
He suggested that postmodernism ‘signaled the end of the grand narrative’.
Charlie Brooker love to challenge a grand narrative. He critiques the way the media presents the world to us and also he critiques our distorted relationship with the media (as described by Baudrillard). He has also written a series of dystopian (near future) sci fi TV programmes called Black Mirror. In these programmes he challenges the big ideas (grand narratives) that are communicated in the media and Lyotard and quite possibly Baudrillard would approve (I think).
Here is Charlie Brooker happliy and brutally deconstructing news reports
HyperNormalisation wades through the culmination of forces that have driven this culture into mass uncertainty, confusion, spectacle and simulation. Where events keep happening that seem crazy, inexplicable and out of control—from Donald Trump to Brexit, to the War in Syria, mass immigration, extreme disparity in wealth, and increasing bomb attacks in the West—this film shows a basis to not only why these chaotic events are happening, but also why we, as well as those in power, may not understand them. We have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. And because it is reflected all around us, ubiquitous, we accept it as normal. This epic narrative of how we got here spans over 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters—the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, early performance artists in New York, President Putin, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers, Colonel Gaddafi and the Internet. HyperNormalisation weaves these historical narratives back together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created and is sustained. This shows that a new kind of resistance must be imagined and actioned, as well as an unprecedented reawakening in a time where it matters like never before.
Consider the ways in which even the news media can be described as an example of hyper-reality and blurring the boundaries between a media constructed reality and the real life..
Is it possible that we know far more about the media, celebrity news & popular culture than we did about significant events and people in the ‘real’ world.
It is important to consider news values and understand how some important pieces of news are pushed off the news agenda because they don’t fulfill the editorial agenda and so the news we do consume is highly selected. This selection is often about what will make a popular / entertaining story rather than reporting other bigger world events but ones that are more remote, ‘foreign’ and ones for which they don’t have pictures.
Finally, the news is packaged up into easily understandable narratives, indeed news items have narrative structure, ‘characters’ cast into simple types & roles and there is often highly emotive use of language and symbolic imagery in order to represent the events / people in a particular way.
Here is a really funny and insightful video from TV critic Charlie Brooker, who incidentally wrote one of our key texts Black Mirror. Here he is talking about the formulaic structure of a TV news item and how they are neatly packaged up for consumption.
Take a look at the Guernsey Evening Press – hegenomy at work even in a small, backwater like Guernsey.
And finally – this is controversial but it is an episode of Russell Brand’s The Trews where he criticises the ‘propaganda’ surrounding terrorist attacks and how the story that the government delivers, feeds us through the media, has a purpose of keeping us on their side and not encourage us to question our own foreign policy and actions abroad. He is loud and outspoken but many of his The Trews discuss modern media and in particular Fox News who represent the multi-national corporate dominance of the world. You will either love him or hate him but what he says does give food for thought and ideas for discussion.
The Simpsons’ use of postmodernist techniques, such as fragmentation, serve to highlight the diversity of our culture and the impossibility of establishing moral authority in the pluralism of postmodern society.
It is a sentiment closely related to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s theory of metanarratives, which involves a distrust of totalizing explanations of the world.
In effect, The Simpsons’ stance is the same as Lyotard’s; to reject systems that aim to exert their authority in order to proclaim absolute truths. Lyotard’s view is that these metanarratives, which purport to explain and re-assure, are really illusions,fostered in order to smother difference, opposition and plurality.Through various implicit and explicit methods, The Simpsons essentially takes the same stance, criticizing any and all who perpetuate such metanarratives. One of the ways The Simpsons does this is by making anti-authoritarianism one of its most prominent recurring themes.
Consider the metanarrative (dominant opinion) that is commonly held about oneof the following groups in society:
Lawyers / The Law
Educators / Teacher
Families / Parents
Celebrities / The Media
You will then be allocated a character from The Simpsons. You need to research their characters, narratives and how they represent someone that may or may not, help bring about the destruction of the grand narrative. Create a slide in the shared presentation on google drive that compares the dominant opinion with the one that is actually constructed, conveyed, portrayed in The Simpsons by the various characters.
Not only does The Simpsons challenge figures of authority and the grand narratives they embody the show also uses one particular character to represent the voice of resistance, rebellion and pluralism.
Lisa Simpson embodies the show’s anti-establishment tendencies with her unceasing onslaught on the totalizing systems (meta narratives) abundant in Springfield. Throughout the series, Lisa’s innate critical disposition has exposed many of the wrongdoings committed by authorities in The Simpsons.
Lisa The Challenger of Meta Narratives
Lisa combats brainwashing powers in Springfield by criticizing the blind faith which people are wont to have towards myths. Despite Lisa’s valiant efforts, her voice is never heard because her community puts all its trust in authority. This is the kind of system that Lyotard describes and opposes in “The Postmodern Condition”.
Jean-François Lyotard is our third theorist. He had some pretty radical things to say about post modern society. Unlike Jameson and Baudrillard, he quite likes the idea of postmodernism!
He made the remarkable assertion that: All ideas of ‘the truth’ are just competing claims (or discourses) and what we believe to be the truth at any point is merely the ‘winning’ discourse.
So essentially, he is saying there is no such thing as any absolute universal truth (or meta narratives) on any subject .
The first thing to realise is that when Lyotard talks about ‘meta-narrative’, he is not using it in the sense of a narrative as we have studied it so far, i.e. a story that uses characters, conflict, events, structure… To Lyotard a ‘meta-narrative’ means, a view of the world and what is considered natural, right or inherently true.
Here is a great image which looks at the recurring ideas underpinning of Hollywood films, which have seem to suggest a simplified / mythical view of life and how things should resolve and which perhaps also communicate ideas which are widely held as being ‘true’, or in other words ‘meta-narratives’
What are the meta-narratives of school life – what do you, the teachers, the public perceive to be universally accepted truths about what happens here between 9 and 4 each day? How far are those preconceptions met or not met during the day?
Now, watch this video with Russel Brand talking to Jeremy Paxman about the phone call scandal which got him fired from the BBC & now the story was exaggerated by The Daily Mail, edited by Paul Dacre.
Also what does Brand suggest about the meta narrative of celebrity?
What does Brand mean by the idea of ‘cultural narrative’?
To develop Lyotard’s ideas. He said these meta narratives (sometimes called ‘grand narratives’) are large-scale theories and philosophies of the world, such as the progress of history, the knowability of everything by science, and the possibility of absolute freedom… Lyotard argues that we (society) have ceased to believe that ‘narratives’ of this kind are adequate and are true for all of us.
The result of this rejection of single universal ideas being true for all of us is reflected by and explored in media texts that are rebellious and subversive towards widely held views and ideas, as well to figures in positions of authority and a distrust of what they claim is right or true.
Think also about the various different shows that feature different types of families, groups or individual’s – we will be looking at The Simpsons in more depth.
Now you can get ‘reality on demand’ for just £3.99 a month! Really? Reality on demand? Or constructed reality on demand – that’s more like it! What would Baudrillard think of the new channel where you can see all the reality TV you want on demand? He would be horrified. A whole new world, where constructed reality, hypereality becomes the norm.
In case TOWIE turns your stomach….you could choose to talk about MiC instead. Just a posher version of TOWIE – that’s all.
Above is a really good blog post on hypereality and Made in Chelsea.
Made in Chelsea paints a very vivid picture of the rich and elite in London. From an outsider looking in, it suggests to a large extent that all ‘English’ people live this way. I have friends from different countries who have said to me ‘Is that what England is like?’ (referring to the show) …well quite simply no. London is very diverse and has many different cultures, yet Made in Chelsea does not have one ethnic person in the show. Whilst it is true that Chelsea is very elite, not everyone who lives there is white (believe it or not). Yet the programme tells another story.
This show definitely blurs the distinction between fiction and documentary and soap opera. The cast are exposed by producers in a certain way to show them off as distinct characters that the audience can relate to for entertainment purposes. Spencer is shown as the ‘villain’ of the show, Jamie, Proudlock and Francis are shown as the ‘laddish’ bachelors and the girls Lucy, Rosie and Louise etc. are the upper class women, who are obsessed with material possessions and their taste in fashion is nothing less than a six figure digit. The whole aesthetic of the programme is to exude wealth, high society members and their lavish lifestyles, which is somewhat a fantasy for many of the viewers.
Consumer Culture – features all the right brands: Harrods, Dorchester Hotel, Sloane Square etc. The programme is even sponsored by Rimmel – Get the London Look. You too could be this gorgeous!
Hegemony – capitalist, bourgeois, conservative view on life. Work hard and you too could be like this. The fact that most of the characters are wealthy by inheritance and none of them seem to do a day’s work between them is irrelevant. Capitalism pays off and MiC is evidence of this (the fact that it is completely constructed and contrived should not deter you from aspiring to this lifestyle). This is quite a good powerpoint on examples of ‘hegemony’ in action – it is very USA based but you will get the idea of how the messages of what is right, expected and wrong are constantly reinforced from ‘up above’ or ‘elsewhere’ although there are some steps to counteract this mindset, as you will see at the end of the presentation.
Hypereality – the blurring between the real people and their on screen characters is blurred. This is endorsed by them tweeting when it is unclear as to whether they are ‘in character’ or as themselves. We talk about them as though they are real.
Simulacra – the original becomes irrelevant. We believe the simulated world. This is how it is. We value the simulated world more than we do the ‘real’ world.
Watch any of the other ‘scripted reality’ TV shows – The Real Housewives series, Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex and you will see exactly the same elements that indicate they are part of this type of postmodern phenomena.
The other TV shows – so called ‘reality fly on the wall’ shows – that are less scripted i.e. KUWTK, Dance Moms, Teen Mom are still no less constructed. See an extract below from an article that outlines how the new series of Teen Mom will now be produced without the 4th wall.
Are you happy this season breaks the fourth wall and shows production?
Maci: I love it. Before, such a huge part of our life was hidden and it was hard to be 100 percent real because we’re pretending we’re not on TV or that we don’t have a million followers on Twitter. Also, there are many situations in the past when we’re filming a scene and we’re aggravated and all of our anger is escalated because there are people in your house, audio, lights, cameras and then you have a kid running around who can’t get up because [production] doesn’t want to mess up the scene, so on top of the aggravation from what’s really going on, you have all this other sh–. It’ll really show how overwhelming being on a TV show is.
This is evidence that the TV show was completely constructed – think about it – the baby is crying but the camera crew is not ready so you can’t pick up the baby to comfort it. How ‘managed’ ‘unreal’ the footage must have been.
These shows created a ‘preferred reality’ as it has more drama, tension and clashes. When Big Brother started out, they made the fatal mistake of not choosing characters that were interesting enough to sustain an audience. Now, they deliberately choose participants who will create drama and increase viewing figures.
But what is it about our voyeuristic tendencies? Even in Roman times we loved seeing people fight to the death in the arena, Have we really not come that far from that kind of barbarity? Think of all the ‘pranked’ videos you watch online – enjoying laughing at people’s misfortune.
Perhaps we have not evolved as far as we had hoped in terms of being civilised. It makes an uncomfortable thought.
Gogglebox is a ‘reality’ TV show (although in my opinion no reality TV is actually proper reality, but that’s another blog post altogether!) in which participants sit at home and watch TV, commenting on it all the while for our entertainment. Gogglebox celebrates the world of television and invites us to critically watch what’s on TV through the eyes of other people, so in a sense we are analysing TV through a TV show. We are being invited to watch a TV show about TV shows, it’s a TV show about its own medium that invites people, both participants and the viewers at home, to mock, laugh at and celebrate everything that comes to our screens at home. Gogglebox sounds like a bizarre TV show, watching people watch TV, but is actually strangely entertaining! And what is perhaps most ironic is that the armchair critics that participate in the show have gone on to become minor celebrities and the show itself is winning Television awards. Totally, self-referential – self-reflexivity at its very best!
The philosopher Plato wrote a famous work called ‘The Republic’.
He wrote The Republic as a series of conversations, which often featured Plato’s famous teacher Socrates. Here is the translated text of the ‘Allegory of the Cave’:
An allegory is a story in which characters and events stand for real life situations.
‘Socrates begins by asking Glaucon (Plato’s brother) to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been imprisoned since childhood. These prisoners have been imprisoned in such a way that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to gaze at a wall in front of them, unable to move their heads. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway. Along this walkway is a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects “…including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials.”. In this way, the walking people are compared to puppeteers and the low wall to the screen over which puppeteers display their puppets. Since these walking people are behind the wall on the walkway, their bodies do not cast shadows on the wall faced by the prisoners, but the objects they carry do. The prisoners cannot see any of this behind them, being only able to view the shadows cast upon the wall in front of them. There are also echoes off the shadowed wall of sounds the people walking on the road sometimes make, which the prisoners falsely believe are caused by the shadows.’
Socrates suggests that, for the prisoners, the shadows of artifacts would constitute reality. They would not realize that what they see are shadows of the artifacts, which are themselves inspired by real humans and animals outside of the cave.
Here is a video version of the allegory:
This allegory can be usefully applied to postmodern ideas about the media:
We are the prisoners
The media is the fire and the puppeteers who cast shadows
We think of the media as ‘reality’
We will be free if we can see beyond and behind the illusion.
Or as Russell Brand suggests: ‘Look for the light source itself, don’t follow the shadows on the wall.‘ – in other words, look beyond the images and try and find the truth, whatever that is.
Here is a music video which exemplifies many of these ideas:
I think that the way that football spectatorship has been copied & recopied by a succession of media texts has lead us to a state of hyper-reality. I’ll try to illustrate:
Grass roots / local football (The Real Thing)
The real thing, standing at the touchline watching a football game in real time, with no media to enhance our experience.
Stadium Football (The Real Thing Max)
A spectator watches a football match from a static position in a stadium, often far away from the action, although the size of the occasion adds to the emotional impact of the spectacle. They watch the match in real time, although their spectatorship is enhanced by replays on a large screen. Also there is music and other entertainment to keep people occupied.
Football on TV – A copy of stadium max, maxed
Cutting to MCU to see individual players
Football on TV follows the action as if we were a spectator in the stands, but also cuts between different camera angles, gives us replays, a running commentary with extra information and ‘expert’ opinion gives us insights into the style of play and management decisions. Also creates player/celebrities and heightens drama .
Fifa – A copy of a copy of stadium max
Fifa simulates the football on TV experience, but goes further. The spectator is now the player, from the POV of a fan in the stands. Except now the camera tracks with the player that the audience is on control of. It includes the voice over commentary to simulate the TV watching experience. Players can play any team they like, play the role of the manager and also enter leagues and goals of the month competitions.
Here is a community page about Fifa in which players organise Fifa tournaments, chat about Fifa, give each other tips, compare management strategies, compete in leagues with each other and other groups. Baudrillard would say that these people are in a state of Hyper-reality, where they feel involved in football but completely removed from the real thing and that don’t really understand football as it is in real life, only as it exists in the media.